Business Farming

Tuesday 27 September 2016

Fine Gael 'dark horses' vie for agri ministry

Published 26/04/2016 | 02:30

Heather Humphreys
Heather Humphreys

If there is a new minority coalition - and it remains an 'if' -there will be a Minister for Rural Affairs supposedly dealing with all country matters outside the farm gate. This will make the choice of Agriculture Minister trickier than usual.

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The farm unions still pack a punch and a re-vamped IFA under new president, Joe Healy, will be trying to claw back farmer confidence and re-build influence in the corridors of power.

Strongly defending Ireland's farm interests in a pending EU-US trade deal will loom large from the word go.

The Rural Affairs portfolio is earmarked for one of the rural Independent TDs. But Agriculture will certainly be kept by Fine Gael. So, who is in the frame?

The acting Arts Minister, Heather Humphreys, who lives on her family's farm in Ahabog, Co Monaghan, is most talked about.

She is certain to retain a cabinet seat but could leave the arts portfolio.

Simon Coveney, then aged 38, was one of Fine Gael's young Turks when appointed on March 9, 2011.

The need for someone who knew Irish farming, helped overcome being on the wrong side in the botched 2010 leadership heave against Enda Kenny.

Coveney, tipped as a potential future Taoiseach, would like to broaden his canvass and wants a heavy-duty economic ministry.

But that may be enough for Kenny to keep Simon "down on the farm."

Contenders

Other Fine Gael people believe they could make a strong case.

A dark horse will be Kildare South TD, Martin Heydon, a farmer from Colbinstown, south of Kilcullen.

He has impressed in his first Dáil term and topped the poll against the national trend in February.

Other contenders include Wicklow's Andrew Doyle; Carlow's Pat Deering. All have identified closely with farmers and enhanced their understanding of the business through good work on the Dáil agriculture committee.

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